Auschwitz – German Concentration Camp

Today I’ve been researching about Auschwitz. Here are some facts I’ve learnt about Auschwitz:

Auschwitz is a German Concentration Camp, not a Polish one. It was run by Germans and is only located in Poland.

There were three camps that made up Auschwitz, the base camp, the extermination camp, and the labor camp. There were also 45 satellite camps.

They disguised the gas chambers as shower rooms, and put in dummy shower heads in to complete the look.

Hungary was allies with Germany during the war but refused to hand over its Jews. It wasn’t until March 1944 when the Germans invaded Hungary that they finally got the Jews.

Even though the gas chambers had thick walls, for fifteen – twenty minutes you could hear the screaming and moaning of the people inside. On one attempt they revved up the engines of two motorcycles to full, and the screaming could still be heard over it.

A German Doctor, Josef Mengele, was fascinated with identical twins and put diseases in one twin, and then killed the other when the first one died, and then did an autopsy on both twins, to see the results.  He was also fascinated with dwarfs.

Białystok

pmToday I continued my learning about the city of Białystok, which is where my Tata was born way back some 41 years ago. Here is a little bit of what I’ve learnt about.

Did you know that Białystok is the largest city in northeastern Poland and that it is the capital of the Podlaskie Voivodeship. The Podlaskie Voivodeship came into being on the 1st January 1999, and the area that it covers was taken from the former Łomża Voivodeship and Białystok voivodeships, and the eastern half of the former Suwałki voivodeship.

Białystok is located on the banks of the Biała River, which passes though Białystok from South to North-East, in the North Podlasie Lowland. Out of all the cities of Poland, Białystok ranks as the number eleventh in population, as well as the second in population density, and thirteenth in area and size.Białystok is also covered in forest making it the fifth most forested city in Poland. It has a population of almost 300,000 people.

Białystok and its surrounding area were settled right back as far as the 14th century, while the city charter only dates back to 1692. Białystok is the most important economic center in northeastern Poland, and is traditionally seen as being a leading centre in cultural, artistic as well as academic life in Podlaskie.

Our Passports are in the Making.

mppa

So we have ordered our passports and are now just awaiting their arrival in our postbox. When we paid for the last Wednesday, we were told they would take around 7-10 days for us to get them back, so fingers crossed we should have them by next week.

We have logged online and checked where our passports are at in the whole process and our details are now in the system, so that’s at least one step in the right direction.

However, until they arrive and are in our hot little hands, I don’t think Phinee or I will believe that we have made the first real step to being able to travel overseas.

When they arrive we will be sure to share a picture of them from the outside with you all – front of the passport of course – as the photos on our passports are HORRIBLE, so we wont be showing you them on the inside!

Museum of the Village – Białystok

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Today I was researching Białystok, which is were my Tata comes from, for interesting places to visit and I found this place. Which is museum of the traditional timber buildings from the region of Białystok.

During the 20th Century, there arose a need to preserve the traditional timber architecture typical for the region of Białystok, which had started to rapidly disappear.  Thus arose the idea of the Białystok Country Museum.

The Białystok region is home to many different ethnic groups – the Poles, Tatars, Jews, Russians, and Belarusians, who have co-existed together for centuries. One of the project’s main intents was to highlight this multicultural aspect of the Białystok region. The plan involved the recreation of the typical village layout (villages of the ulicówka and szeregówka types) and the reconstruction of farmsteads, and traditional field and orchard utilization patterns.

This was to be laid out on an impressively large area of 100 hectares. But, during 1994 there was a fire that consumed a relic barn built in the mid 18th century, and eight other buildings. This fire destroyed a large part of the collection, which resulted in project authorities discarding the idea of recreating settlement patterns and decreasing the museum area to 30 hectares and fencing it in.

Despite all this, the open air museum is still impressive in terms of its size and the richness of it’s collection. It consists of 33 relic buildings all of which are heritage from the Białystok villages.

Some of the more interesting buildings available at the museum include, a water mill, a grand forge from the area of Gródek, a set of forest buildings from a forest settlement, a small gentry house, the mansion of a land owner from Bobra Wielka, a 19th century windmill, and a fire fighters building.

I think it would be a very interesting thing to see.

Poland is on the Menu – and It only took 16 Years

poland

This year we have been together for 16 years, while we will be celebrating our 14th Wedding anniversary in June. It all seems such a long time, but in reality, it has flown. We have had great years, bad years and okay years, but all the way through it we have journey together and we have made it through stronger than ever, and I wouldn’t have it any other way as the journey has helped create the people we are today.

Over the last 16 years we have had many a conversation about Poland, the country of birth for Tata. We have talked about where he came from, Bialystok, why he left with his family and the road they travelled to get to Australia and the life it provided them. We have looked at old photographs from Poland, which are few and far between and listened patiently to stories about his childhood, growing up in Poland and also stories from Babcia and Dziadek.

We have tried to incorporate Polish traditions into our life and that of our children, tried to embrace the language (to no avail!) as we tried to honour their heritage on their fathers side. Don’t get me wrong we have also tried to honour the heritage from my side of the family too, but it is easier as my heritage speaks the same language and embraces many of the same traditions as Australians do.

Anyway, as the years went by, my curiosity and desire to visit this country that is now linked with my own life story and that of my children’s has increased. So much so that I have repeatedly asked Tata if he would consider living in Poland for a year or two just so we can move there and truly experience the Polish way of life for ourselves. For years my desire to visit and possibly live there has been loosely discussed and cheekily pushed aside. That is until 2013. What a start to the year!

So some 16 years later (and we are in 2013) and Tata finally tells me we can afford to send me to Poland. My first visit it not quite what I was hoping for as I wanted to take the whole family, but the reason behind it requires that we spend the least amount of money now for future prosperity. So I am in a state of shock, extremely excited, yet saddened as well that Tata and the children will not be coming with me THIS time.

So for the last two weeks we have been consumed with everything Polish and connected to Poland. I finally got over my desire to only travel with the whole family and accepted that if I want my true desire to happen, then I best travel to Poland in 2013, by myself and check it out.

Then a curve ball was thrown at me. ‘Why not take Phinee with you?!?’ Tata asks. ‘What?!?!’ I say… but after thinking about the logistics of it all and talking with Tata who convinces me it is the right thing to do, I accept the challenge and the honour of taking our older daughter with me to Poland, to show her the place of her father’s birth and that of his heritage. To retrace the footsteps of his beginnings – and all without speaking the Polish Language! – Heaven help me 🙂 or us!

So as our journey begins to materialise in front of our faces and the reality of it sets in. Phinee and I have set ourselves the task of researching Poland, where we should visit, things we should do and words we need to learn and understand in a hurry. We have tried to learn the Polish language before but it is so hard and we can’t get the right sounds for many of the letter combinations, but with no real reason to perfect our spoken polish words, the desire over the years just died off. But now we have a reason and our journey demands that we learn as much as we can in the time that we have. So hopefully now that we have a practical need to speak Polish we might learn and retain it easier.

So After 16 years – Poland is on the menu and I am ready to devour it 🙂